Headaches are a common complaint in patients presenting for professional care, including chiropractic management. Patients with headaches seek chiropractic care because they find adjustments applied to the cervical spine and upper back region are highly effective in reducing the intensity, frequency and duration of the headache pain. This is because the cervical spine/neck is often the origin of the headache as the three nerves in the upper neck (C1,2,3) pass through the thick, overly taut neck muscles in route to the scalp/head.
When muscles of the neck are in spasm, the nerves get “pinched” or squeezed by the overly tight muscles resulting in headache pain. Each nerve runs to a different part of the head and therefore, pain may be described as “radiating over the top of the head and sometimes into the forehead and eyes, or into the head and over the ear sometimes reaching the temple.
Also, an area located in the back and side of the head is the area where the first cervical nerve innervates, so pain may also be reported in that location. When more than one of the first three cervical nerves is irritated, the whole side to the top of the head may be involved.
In the October 2009 issue of THE SPINE JOURNAL reported benefits are obtained with the utilization of spinal adjustments in the treatment of chronic cervico-genic headaches. Chronic means at least 3 months of headache pain has been present. This new study compared 2 different doses of therapy suing several outcome measures including the pain grade (scale of 1-10), the number of headaches in the last 4 weeks and the amount of medication utilized. Data was collected every four weeks for a 24-week period and patients were treated one to two times per week and separated into either an eight or 16 treatment session with have the group receiving either spinal adjustments or a minimal light massage control group.
The results of the study revealed the spinal manipulation group obtained better results than the control group at all time intervals tested. There was a small benefit in the group that received the greater number of treatments with the mean number of cervico-genic headaches reduced 50% in both pain intensity and headache frequency.
The importance of this study is significant as there are many side effects to medications frequently utilized in the treatment of headaches. Many patients prefer not taking medications for this reason. Couple chiropractic adjustments with dietary management, lifestyle modifications, stress management and a natural vitamin/herbal anti-inflammatory when needed, a natural holistic approach to the management of chronic headaches can be accomplished.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call or go to our website at sanjuanholistichealthcare.com.
Yours in Health,
Mark W. Earnhart, D.C.